ARU, Congo — Three convents in Congo were attacked by armed men in the latest violence targeting the Catholic Church in the central Africa country.

“The thugs attacked the nuns and threatened them with death, before taking away their money” and other goods intended for the sisters’ work in the community, the justice and peace commission of the Archdiocese of Kananga said in a statement.

The convent of St. Joseph of Tarbes in Bena Mukangala was attacked Sept. 6, and in Kambote and Malole, convents of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary were attacked on Sept. 14 and Sept. 19, respectively.

The commission in Kananga, a city in Congo’s central Kasai region, urged authorities to investigate the incidents, arrest and prosecute the perpetrators, and ensure the safety of the sisters and their convents.

“The nuns … have dedicated their lives to the service of the church and our nation,” the commission said, noting that some of the sisters “are missionaries who come from faraway countries and provide social services” in Congo.

As well as caring for the sick, elderly, widows and orphans, the sisters work in providing health care and education to Congolese, the statement said.

Civilians in eastern Congo have been brutalized by militias, rebels and military units in recent years. Thousands of women have been raped by the armed groups. Analysts say competition for mineral resources is the key factor fueling the violence, but recently succession politics added to the troubles.

Challenging what they termed as an “illegal” third term for President Joseph Kabila and moving to broker a deal between the government and opposition parties, the Catholic Church has found itself targeted. Priests have been abducted, and churches, convents and Catholic schools have been vandalized or looted by armed groups.

The Catholic Church makes up around half the 67.5 million inhabitants of Congo.